LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A “semi-retired” rancher and farmer who hasn’t sought political office before said Tuesday he’s challenging an Arkansas Republican congressman as a Democrat next year.

Mike Nelson said he is seeking the party’s nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Rick Crawford in the 1st Congressional District. Crawford has held the seat since 2010 and is seeking re-election next year.

Nelson, 48, criticized the House-backed legislation Crawford supported to repeal and replace major portions of the federal health care law, calling the plan “complete junk.” Nelson said he would have voted against the legislation, saying it will be costly for poorer states like Arkansas.

“You’re talking about basically pushing those costs back to each state and not all states are equal in terms of financial hardships, so that puts more pressure on the lower class, more pressure on the middle class to come up with money,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act when it was enacted in 2010, but would have pushed for the “public option,” or a government-run insurance plan as part of the overhaul.

Nelson, who lives in unincorporated Arkansas County, described himself as fiscally conservative and said he supports a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. He said he supports repealing the trade embargo with Cuba, a move that supporters have said could help the farm-heavy district.

Nelson faces an uphill fight trying to unseat Crawford in Arkansas, where Republicans hold all statewide and federal offices, as well as majorities in both chambers of the Legislature.

Crawford, who didn’t have a Democratic challenger in last year’s election, reported in April having more than $305,000 cash on hand for his re-election bid. A spokesman said the Republican congressman didn’t have any comment about Nelson’s announcement.


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